dental dam single tooth

What is a dental dam?

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Table of Contents

Dental dam comes in the shape of a small square or rectangular shape, with a thin and flexible consistency, and each piece must be utilized just one time. Although dental dams (or rubber dams) are generally made from latex, latex-free kinds are available if you have a latex allergy.

Why dentists use a dental dam?

Mouth aims to be the place of our body, with the highest concentration of bacteria. Every dental treatment should be performed in the complete absence of bacteria (or almost).
Take as an example if you have to receive a filling on the lower molar due to a cavity (read how to get rid of cavities). It will be tough for the dentist to work that zone of your mouth without the contamination of saliva. In this case, the rubber dam is necessary for your dentist to isolate the field of work properly, and make the filling without any contamination.
To summarize: Dental dam=Isolation of the work field from bacteria and saliva contamination.

Which procedures require a dental dam?

Main dental treatments that require dental dam are:

  • Fillings
  • Root canal treatments
  • Endodontic treatments in general
  • Tooth restorations with adhesive techniques
  • Adhesive cementations of crowns
  • Cementation of Inlay/Onlay

How is the dental dam placed to isolate the field?

For a single tooth, the dentist will make a little hole on the rubber dam sheet and then place the dental dam on site thanks to a u-shaped hook that will keep the barrier in place.

Benefits of a dental dam.

• Enhance the quality of dental therapy

Isolate the field of work from bacteria and saliva will surely help to do a much cleaner job, and it will increase the possibilities to receive successful dental treatment. It often happens that a perfect endodontic treatment may fail due to a non-application of the dental dam, which causes contamination of the root canal.

• Save you from the water spread from the dental turbine

Another benefit is that all the water spread from the dental turbine will not reach the oral area. It’s never a pleasure to have the whole mouth full of water and consequently, swallow liters of water in just a few minutes. Well, with a rubber dam, this won’t happen.

The negatives sides of using a dental dam.

There are no cons concerning the clinical factors. The only disadvantages of the rubber dam are to be addressed the uncomfortable feeling to have it in your mouth.

• Hard to swallow.

On the other side, you may feel uncomfortable having the dental dam sheet placed in your mouth due to difficulties in swallowing the saliva properly. In this case, you may ask your dentist to stop for a while when you need the help of aspiration to remove the excess of saliva.

• Hard to breathe with the mouth.

You may experience difficulties in breathing normally with your nose due to a deviated septum or whatever.
In this case, it won’t be so pleasant to have a dental dam because it is almost impossible to breathe with the mouth. You can ask your dentist to create a hole in the middle of the rubber dam sheet to help you breathe with the mouth.

• Hooks can pinch your gums.

It can happen that the hook used to place the dental dam in place will pinch the gum around the tooth. While you have anesthesia, you won’t feel absolutely anything, but you may experience uncomfortable feelings once you go back home, when the effect of anesthesia is gone. In this case, you can help yourself with a chlorhexidine gel against inflammation.

The takeaway.

Although you may feel a bit uncomfortable the very first time your dentist uses the dental dam to perform a treatment, you should try to accept and let your dentist use the rubber dam every time he/she needs.
You can talk to him/her and find compromises to help you to have a comfortable dentist session even if using a dental dam! Ask for pauses, saliva aspiration, or hole on the sheet to let you breathe normally with your mouth if you can’t breathe properly with your nose.
Use a rubber dam makes the difference in a positive way for the health of your smile!

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Main reference for Oral Health:



American Dental Association (ADA) 

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